Keeping an Eye on Your Competition Online
Building a reliable and successful presence online is important, and it places you and your business in the context of your niche. To really see where you stand, it is just as important to take a look at who your competition is, and what they are doing online. Keeping an eye on your competition online can have a lot of benefits beyond merely comparing products and prices. There are several simple things that you can do to keep tabs on what they are doing.
Because the bulk of all traffic to websites originates in the search engines, a good way to start looking for your main competitors is to find them in Google. Do searches for all of the high value keywords in your niche and see whose sites turn up in the first couple of pages. For a minimal amount of effort it is usually possible to compile a list of a dozen or so other businesses that are turning up most often in the SERPs. You should also Google the names of any competitors that you are already aware of. Once your list of competitors is complete, you can advance to the next stage of the plan: surveillance.
Most business websites have a squeeze page, or a subscriber opt-in that allows users to receive the company’s online marketing information. Take advantage of this free information and sign up for your competitors’ promotions, newsletters, forums and blogs and keep yourself current in the conversations that they are having. If there are niche based forums for your industry, find your competitors and follow the things that they contribute to them, offer your business as an alternative if it is appropriate, and associate yourself with the niche as a major contributor. In order to compete with other businesses online it is vital to step into the game and make a place for yourself in it.
The most important places to connect with and monitor your competitors are on the social media sites. Generally one or two of the social sites will be most suited to the industry that you are in, and the majority of people in your niche will either use Facebook or Twitter for most of their marketing. For many professions, LinkedIn can be an indispensible resource not only for watching the competition, but for networking and connecting with them as well. The greatest advantage of engaging with your competition on social media sites is that it gives you an equal voice and creates an opportunity to present you and your business as a viable alternative to theirs in a neutral, online space. As most wall posts on brand pages go unchecked, it is also possible to leave comments that will be prominently displayed on competitors’ fan pages.
You will definitely want to keep an eye on the SERPs for your specific keyword set to be aware of any new players entering your niche market. It is also a good idea to use a service like Google Alerts to monitor the web for new content that is posted for your keywords and the names of your major competitors. If you take the time to set up the relevant subscriptions and Google Alerts, watching what other businesses in your industry are up to shouldn’t add a lot of time to your online marketing schedule. Additionally, it is a good way to stay current with developments in your industry. Every niche has an online conversation, and the first step towards joining it and becoming a part of it is to find out who is having it and what they are talking about. Watching what your competition are doing online does just that.